Chopstick Etiquette

Next week is Chinese New Year (28th January). The year of the rooster. As such, we thought now may be a good time to enlighten you on some of the etiquette and background that surrounds chopsticks.

The word ‘chopsticks’ is thought to have been discovered in the 1800s, when foreigners heard Chinese boatmen referring to cooking utensils as ‘kuai-tzu’. Pidgin English transformed this into ‘chop-chop’.

Chopsticks are thought to improve dexterity and memory. This is especially good for wannabe painters, apparently.

In Chinese cuisine, chopsticks are used to eat everything except: soup (a porcelain spoon is used), Peking duck (the hands are employed here), and puddings (which uses either the hands or a spoon).

Hold your chopsticks a third of the way down, leaving the thicker ends clean. This is because the top of the chopsticks are used to take food from communal serving dishes to your bowl, whereas the narrower ends are used to bring food from your bowl to your mouth. In China the higher you hold your chopsticks, the more sophisticated you supposedly are.


It is considered the height of rudeness to beat the side of your bowl with chopsticks: this is what beggars used to do. It is also ill advised to drop your sticks as this is thought to bring bad luck; similarly, leaving your chopstick upright in rice evokes death.

Chopsticks are more than just eating utensils. During the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) chopsticks were made from gold and silver. Silver was thought to detect poison: but, as a lot of diners found out, this was not the case.

Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Happy Chinese New Year!)

Guest Contributor, William Hanson, is Senior Tutor with The English Manner

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2017-01-07T18:55:58+00:00 By |
Profile photo of William Hanson Sr. Tutor, The English Manner
William joined The English Manner in 2008. He began teaching etiquette from an early age and has gained much experience in teaching manners and protocol to schools and businesses. He has worked with and advised large companies such as Bentley, Champagne Bollinger, Fox’s Biscuits, Green & Black's and the National Lottery. He has worked within VIP households and trained business professionals, schoolchildren, and diplomats alike. A perennial voice on the BBC, William comments on matters of taste and critiques social trends for a wide-range of media outlets including Tatler and the Financial Times. He has his own range of Etiquette apps and released his first book in January 2014 to high praise. He is currently penning a second. William is the world’s only Guinness World Record holding etiquette expert.